The internet is one of the most significant innovations of all time and has impacted everyone's life. The march of technology and technological innovation has been so rapid that people were thrown onto the internet wagon without choice, training or awareness about its advantages and dangers. Indians were especially affected, since we went from poor telephone coverage to high-speed tech saturation. Over time, it has divided us into two categories—digital natives and digital migrants. Digital natives grew up with the internet, while digital migrants are mostly the older generation who are still grappling with the digital way of life.
Unfortunately, the internet was not developed with mandatory security and protection requirements; this makes every user vulnerable to online fraud and scams. The proliferation of tech-savvy cybercriminals, who are often a jump ahead of ethical innovators, adds to the problem.
It is a world where small-time scammers from infamous Jamtara and Mewat are thriving along with highly professional, new-age cybercriminals with the tools, money and patience to plan and execute very sophisticated fraud. These cybercriminals operate from anywhere in the world and are constantly changing their virtual private networks (VPN), making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to track them down. They often use anonymisation tools and other techniques to conceal their identities and activities.
Online Task and Like It Scams
Over the past few months, we are witnessing a new 'slow poison' type modus operandi being used by cybercriminals of 'online task' or 'like it' frauds. It is similar to matrimonial fraud, where fraudsters spend more time and money to impress and gain the complete confidence of the victim.
Those operating through places such as Jamtara or Mewat region are in a hurry and looking for a quick kill. However, those operating scams that use greed and need to reel in people with 'online tasks' or 'like it' frauds, take time to execute their plans. Multi-level marketing (MLM) or chain money scams are another type of fraud, where confident tricksters even pay money to their victims to gain initial confidence and persuade them to invest further or bring in more victims.
A 71-year-old army colonel (retired) from Pune lost Rs2.5 crore in April and May. He received a message on WhatsApp offering a handsome income for writing online reviews and liking videos. The message mentioned that he could work in his free time and they would pay him good money for online tasks. He responded to the message and completed some tasks.
"Initially, the crooks paid him for some tasks. Then they told him to invest in their pre-paid task schemes with a promise of higher returns and a refund. He kept transferring money of varied amounts to 48 bank accounts given by the crooks. He exhausted all his savings and retirement benefits by the time he realised that he had been cheated," Meenal Patil, senior inspector at Pune cyber police, told the Times of India
Police have noted details of phones and other internet-based messaging applications the fraudsters used to reach the retired colonel and asked banks to freeze the 48 accounts to salvage whatever amount was left there, the senior inspector says.
While one feels sorry for the senior citizen and veteran, it is a fact that he did not stop when he realised that instead of earning an income, he had been turned into an investor. If you come across similar offers, which are in the 'too good to be true' space, do consult your family, friends, relatives or organisations such as Moneylife Foundation
, that can guide you on whether or not to remain a part of such schemes.
Cash Advance Loan Scam
The Delhi police busted a gang of online cheats and arrested six people who had duped over 1,900 nationwide on the pretext of providing loans through an app called Cash Advance.
An IANS report says that the gang was extorting money and blackmailing people on the pretext of providing instant loans after accessing their mobile data illegally through the app. Suspected transactions worth Rs350 crore and dubious crypto exchange by the gang have come to light.
Police registered 102 complaints from Delhi alone, while 1,977 complaints from across India were lodged on the national cybercrime reporting portal against the Cash Advance app.
The gang offered short-term loans at very low-interest rates through the app. Once the app was installed, the gang was able to access all data available on the mobile device. Once the loan was disbursed through digital mode, they increased interest rates exorbitantly and demanded more money even after the entire loan was repaid with interest. The gang members even demanded money from the borrowers or their relatives by threatening to share their morphed pictures with their friends and associates, police told the news portal.
The lesson here is to avoid loan apps and try to borrow money, when needed, from regulated entities.
How To Report Cyber Fraud?
Do report cyber crimes to the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal http://cybercrime.gov.in
or call the toll-free National Helpline number, 1930. To follow on social media: Twitter (@Cyberdost), Facebook (CyberDostI4C), Instagram (cyberdostl4C), Telegram (cyberdosti4c).
If the fraud is related to your bank account, you need to immediately send an email to the official email ID of your branch (you can find it on the bank's website or your passbook) with a copy to the bank's customer care. Even if you have called the official number for customer care, you must still send an email describing your conversation with the bank executive, along with the time, date, and duration of the call. This will be helpful if you face a liability issue with the bank.